HARBOUR Centre Development is planning to enter the hotel markets in gateway cities of Southeast Asia in an attempt to spread risk. Company director Quinn Law said yesterday that it was studying several projects in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, where economic development was promising. Mr Law said it was highly likely that the company could make an investment in Southeast Asian countries this year. He said the company had not invested in any hotels last year. Harbour Centre Development, the hotel arm of Wharf (Holdings), last invested in a hotel in September 1993 when it acquired one in Chicago. Investment in American hotels had become increasingly expensive, making Southeast Asian countries more attractive. The company owns and operates the Omni Hong Kong Hotel, and operates the Marco Polo and the Prince leased from Wharf. It owns three hotels in the United States. The company has about $500 million cash while borrowings amount to more than $1 billion. Mr Law said the privatisation plan for the company was still on the agenda because it would be in the interests of Wharf to streamline its structure. Wharf's bid to privatise Harbour Centre Development in 1993 was aborted after it failed to win the support of 90 per cent of independent minority shareholders under tightened takeover guidelines issued by the Securities and Futures Commission. 'I think every company wants to streamline its structure,' Mr Law said. 'If we can do it, why shouldn't we? I think, from Wharf's standpoint, it is not easy to manage so many listed companies. 'We constantly study the privatisation plan. There is so much overlapping [between Wharf and Harbour Centre Development]. 'The question is when will it be the right time to do it.' The company reported strong growth for calendar year 1994 and Mr Law said it was not only because the earnings base in 1993 was smaller but also because of the strong performance from the Omni Hong Kong and a bigger contribution from its American hotels. The net profit at the company jumped 30 per cent to $165 million. Mr Law said property investment represented 40 per cent of operating profit, and hotel operations 50 per cent, with the remaining part from treasury investment in bonds and blue-chip stocks. He expected a steady performance this year, with an increase of about 10 per cent in average room rates in Hong Kong. He said anything higher might turn away visitors.